Former police officer who killed unarmed African-American teen sentenced to 15 years in prison
Roy Oliver told the court that he shot at the vehicle because he believed it was moving aggressively towards his partner Tyler Gross
Roy Oliver, the former Balch Springs, Texas police officer who fatally shot 15-year-old honor roll student Jordan Edwards on April 29 last year and was found guilty of murder on Tuesday, was sentenced to 15 years in prison on Wednesday. The jury that read out the sentence deliberated for 12 hours before deciding the punishment and also handed down a fine of $10,000.
On April 29 last year, Edwards was leaving a party with his older brother and three other friends in the Dallas-Fort Worth suburb when they heard that the police had been dispatched. Officers at the scene said they were responding to a call of 'drunk teens' and were searching for the homeowner when they heard what they thought were gunshots.
An officer with Oliver then moved towards the teens' car and ordered it to stop as it was backing away. He then approached the vehicle from the passenger's side with his weapon drawn and punched through the window breaking it. The vehicle continued to move forward slowly and, as it passed Oliver, he fired multiple rounds from his patrol rifle into the car. One of the bullets hit Edwards in the back of the head and he died on the spot.
Initially, the police department said that the car was driving in reverse towards the officers, but they retracted those statements later. Oliver stuck by the story, telling the court that he shot at the vehicle because he believed it was moving aggressively towards his partner Tyler Gross. However, Gross testified and said he never felt in danger nor did he feel the need to use lethal force.
Oliver’s attorney Bob Gill said the jury should base its decision on what Oliver knew at the time. “It doesn’t matter that looking back on it, in hindsight, we’d all make a different decision now,” Gill told the jury Monday. “We have to look at it how Roy Oliver saw it at the time and what he saw was a significant threat to his partner.”
Gill also said that the ex-officer had to make a "split-second decision to protect his partner," and said, "He did not know who Jordan was. His loyalty and fidelity to his partner caused him to act."
But prosecutor Mike Snipes argued that there were nine seconds between Oliver obtaining his weapon and firing the first shot, describing the officer as a "killer in blue" who violated his oath to protect citizens. While the sentencing is a victory, Snipes and his team sought at least 60 years but the defense was looking for anything below 20.
According to CNN, Edwards' mother Charmaine expressed her disappointment at the verdict saying she preferred a sentence of at least 25 to 30 years for her son's killer. "He actually can see life again after 15 years," she said. "And that's not enough because Jordan can't see life again."